The New York Knicks have needed strong finishes to handle the Orlando Magic this season.
The Knicks hope to make it easier on themselves Wednesday night at home as they look for a fifth straight victory over a Magic team that has lost six in a row and 17 of 19.
Although New York (27-15) is by far the better team, it used big fourth quarters to earn two 2012-13 wins over Orlando. The Knicks outscored the Magic (14-30) by nine in the fourth in a 99-89 victory Nov. 13 and used a 33-17 final period to win 114-106 on Jan. 5 – both in Orlando.
The Magic combined to shoot 32.4 percent in those fourth quarters with six assists and eight turnovers.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson would like to see some defensive improvement from his team. New York allowed Philadelphia to shoot 50.7 percent in a 97-80 road loss Saturday before a 106-104 home win the next night despite Atlanta’s 60.0 field-goal percentage – the highest by a Knicks opponent all season.
“We gotta clean up our high pick-and-roll defense and get back to our coverages that we were doing earlier in the year,” Woodson said. “It’s just guys being up and guys committed on the ball, not begging for help. That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to take pride in guarding your man who has the ball.”
The Knicks were bailed out Sunday by another brilliant performance by Carmelo Anthony, who scored 42 and tied a franchise record with nine 3-pointers.
“It was just a matter of me just taking them shots and making them,” said Anthony, who is shooting a career-high 42.0 percent on 3-pointers. “I know I’m capable of making them, but when I’m making them from the outside, from the perimeter, it opens up the game that much more, for myself, for my teammates, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Anthony can break Richie Guerin’s franchise record of 29 straight 20-point games Wednesday. The Knicks star has totaled 65 points against the Magic this season.
Point guard Raymond Felton finished with 12 points and 10 assists against the Hawks after he had eight and three the night before in his first game since Dec. 25 after being out with a broken right pinky finger.
“When you’re out for five weeks, it’s kind of tough,” Felton said. “You gotta get back into your rhythm, get back into the rhythm with your teammates. It takes a couple games but hopefully that’s gone now.”
Orlando opened a five-game trip with Monday’s 97-77 defeat at Brooklyn. The backcourt of Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick combined for 17 assists, but scored 14 points on 5-of-25 shooting.
“It’s tough to continue to do the same task over and over again, and that’s what we’re asking of our guys. That’s what we have to do in order for us to be good as a basketball team,” coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Nelson and Felton will meet for the first time this season since one was out in each of the first two matchups.
Orlando swingman Arron Afflalo is day to day with a strained left calf that kept him out against the Nets.